Updated: Aug 5, 2021
Any discussion of Old Saxon Heathenry, usually begins with the Irminsul, the most famous Old Saxon site of worship. Many in modern Neo-paganism follow the Nazi "scholar" Teudt's guess (a wrong guess) that the Historical Irminsul was a palm-tree shaped godpole. (Palm trees do not grow in Northern Germany, Old Saxon lands, nor in Scandinavia.) Images of these "palm tree Irminsuls" are found all over modern neo-pagansim. If one were to "google" the Irminsul, these are the images that will come up, palm trees. Obviously, Germanic godpoles were not in the shape of palm trees. The evidence Teudt gave was only a rock relief, made by Christians 200 years after the Irminsul was destroyed. The rock relief was an image of Joseph of Arimathea removing Christ's body from the cross, using a ladder or a chair. This ladder or chair, Teudt claimed, was the Old Saxon Irminsul, bent by Joseph of Arimithea, bent by Christ. This rock relief was about 50 km from the actual site of the historical Irminsul, at the Externsteine, in Germany. (I do recommend this as a tourist site, it is quite amazing. But the Externsteine is archaeologically disproven even as an Old Saxon sacred grove.)
An example of an Asatru understanding of the Externsteine as the Irminsul site.
Palm Tree images, of the "chair" that Joseph of Arimathea was standing on, when he took Christ's body down off of the Cross in the Bible. (Below in this article, I show a picture of this relief and the chair itself.) PS- I am saddened by these images. Any press of modern Heathenry following a Nazi's guess or interpretation is just bad press. Nazi and racist ideas must not be tolerated. To restore the Irminsul, we must look to the evidence of what the historical Saxon Irminsul was. For Saxon Heathens to put up Godpoles or Irminsul's in their yards or sacred groves today, one must do research, to honor the Saxon Gods. Even Odin in the Havamal stated that one must learn how to do a blot for example: Havamal Stanza 144: Veiztu hvé blóta skal? Translated (Odin Asks:) "Do you know how to blot?" Yes, as a reconstructionist, I feel that we should blot to the Gods the way the Gods want us to blot to them. The Blot is for the Gods, not for us (first and foremost.) Therefore, Reconstructionist Old Ways Heathens do wish to celebrate the holidays on the actual dates that the Heathens historically celebrated, and we wish to recreate in our modern world Blot and Sumble, the main forms of praising and honoring the Gods, the way historical Heathens approached the Gods, as they understood, better than we do, how the Gods preferred to be approached. Therefore, our Godpoles should be modeled after historical ones as well. What does the archaeological evidence of godpoles in Saxony show? What do the historical sources of the Irminsul state? (This is my second blog article on the Irminsul. My first blog article, showed several dozen pictures of the actual Irminsul site, where I, along with my two sons, met German arcaehologist Sven Schild, for a tour of the Irminsul site, and a discussion of hte finds there.) To read this article follow this link: https://www.aldsidu.com/post/the-saxon-irminsul-the-chatti-donar-s-oak The Historical Saxon Irminsul The Irminsul is described in the Royal Frankish Annals as being near Eresburg (now Obermarsberg). The Royal Frankish Annals (Latin: Annales Regni Francorum) are annals written for the early Frankish kings, covering the years 741 to 829 AD. They are among the most important sources for the history of the reign of Charlemagne. They are continued by the Annales Fuldenses and Annales Bertiniani. The Royal Frankish Annals state the following regarding the year 772 AD: “The most gracious lord king Charles (Charlemagne) then held an assembly at Worms. From Worms he marched into Saxony. Capturing the castle at Eresburg, he proceeded as far as the Irminsul, destroyed this idol and carried away the gold and silver he found. A great drought occurred so that there was no water in the place where the Irminsul stood. The glorious king wished to remain there two or three days in order to destroy the temple completely, but they had no water.” This is the first attestation of the Irminsul in historical records. From this we learn the following: 1. The Irminsul is only attested amongst the Saxons near Eresburg. 2. There was a hill-fort (in Latin Castellum, or "castle") at Eresburg. 3. He proceeded "as far as" the Irminsul, which means the Irminsul was close to Eresburg. 4. There was gold and silver at the Irminsul, i.e. votive offerings. 5. There was a temple at the Irminusl, so it was not just a giant godpole or tree, but a whole religious complex… 6 ... that took two or three days to destroy... i.e. this implies it was a place of immense size considering it took Charlemagne's army two to three days to destroy it. 7. It was not near a body of water. The Old Saxon Heliand implies that all major Saxon places of veneration were at rivers in sacred groves. It appears that for the Irminsul temple-hof, this most likely was not the case. (Please note, the Externsteine has a modern man-made lake today, but had a small river in Heathen times.)
The Annales Petaviani (circa 775 AD) implies that the Irminsul was at Eresburg, not just close by to Eresburg. The Annales Petaviani states: "He conquered the Eresburg and found the place, which is called Irminsul, and set these places on fire."
Eresburg (Obermarsburg) Today
Historically, the Saxons were allies to the Heathen Danes. During the Saxon Wars, the war to forcefully convert Saxony to Christianity by the Franks, Saxon Heathens were given refuge by the Heathen Danes, their Heathen neighbors, who also had no love for the Christian Franks. The Danes had a cult site in Tisso, very similar to the Irminsul. Tisso had a temple building with two Godpoles inside. Below are the actual godpoles reconstructed, the picture was taken at the Varus Schlacht Museum in Kalkriese, but these poles were taken from Tisso. Also pictured below is the reconstructed Tisso temple which housed these Godpoles.
Reconstructed Temple Image: Tisso. This housed the two Godpoles above.
Please see (above) the Externsteine Relief, where Teudt, the German Nazi party member, took his "guess" of what the historical Irminsul looked like. Notice this is from a Christian Rock Carving at the Externsteine, the scene is of Joseph of Arimathea, standing on a chair, to take Christ of the Cross. Teudt guessed that this chair was not a chair at all, but a "bent Irminsul." Today, we should reject this bent Irminsul image. In a recent blog, The Rational Heathen stated that we must abandon the Irminsul. I think that if the writer of the Rational Heathen got his/her research from Aldsidu, the writer would correctly conclude that Teudt was wrong, and we should educate on what the historical Irminsul really was. We must abandon what the Nazi's interpreted as the Irminsul, and reclaim with solid research what the historical Irminsul actually was. However, I am going to "lose" this battle. Just as modern Asatru wrongly believes Yule was on the winter solstice, and there is no changing that, there is no changing modern Asatru's interpretation of the Irminsul as a palm tree, based on a chair Joseph of Arimathea stood on. I accept this, sadly. But we Aldsidu Saxon Heathens should move on, and accept the historical Irminsul with solid research. What do I believe the Irminsul was? We have two options: It was a giant Oak Tree, or it was a godpole accompanied with a Temple. I (right now) believe it was a godpole inside a temple. Gold and silver were taken from this place. It makes no sense to me that the Irminsul would be outside of the temple itself. But the giant Oak Tree argument has great merit. Please remember, the Royal Frankish Annals claim that the Irminsul was destroyed in 772 AD/CE. The Royal Frankish Annals also record that the Saxons retook Eresburg in 773 AD/CE. The Royal Frankish Annals then claim that the Saxons next (in 773) attacked Fritzlar, and tried to burn down Boniface's church. Why is this important you ask? Boniface's church was built on the site of Thor's Oak (or Donar's Oak), the most holy site of the Chatti. Donar's Oak was a huge Oak Tree, chopped down by "St. Boniface." What does this have to do with the Irminsul? If the Donar Oak was a giant oak tree 30 miles south of the Historical Saxon Irminsul, and the Saxons felt strongly about freeing their neighbors forcefully christianized by the Franks, and they felt the need to also free this destroyed holy site, there is a good case to be made that the Saxon Irminsul was similar to Thor's Oak of the neighboring Chatti Tribe. This being said, my belief is that the Irminsul was a godpole with a carved Image of Irmin/Uuoden/Odin, and was accompanied with a temple. Rudolf of Fulda wrote 80 years after the Irminsul was destroyed that the Irminsul was a stock of wood in the open air, but the Royal Frankish Annals and the Annales Petaviani are the ONLY contemporary sources of the Irminsul. Hence, these two sources imply to me at least, that there was a Temple at the Irminsul, and it is most likely the Irminsul itself was inside of this Temple. (It is also possible it was outside of this Temple, but I lean to this site being similar to the Danish site of Tisso, following the archaeological evidence.) Sadly, we cannot tear down an active church in Germany today, built on top of the historical Irminsul, allowing archaeologists to do a dig to gather evidence. Please note, that Charlemagne retook Eresburg from the Saxons in 775, and in 780 Charlemagne built a church at the Irminsul site, and put a Christian graveyard there. This is pretty serious proof that Eresburg not only housed a hillfort, but also had the Irminsul. Charlemagne did not put a graveyard or a church at the Externsteine.
Godpoles for today?
I believe Heathens should build godpoles today, i.e. the outdoor large kind. Please see the image below of myself at the Archäologisches Freilichtmuseum Oerlinghausen. There are reconstructed Old Saxon godpoles there, with me pictured next to them. These godpoles were found in Warendorf, an Old Saxon village
Myself next to the reconstructed Warendorf Old Saxon godpoles. Notice that these Godpoles are mostly giant faces. One must wonder how similar these are to the Godpoles recorded by Ibn Fadlan amongst the Rus.
Pictured here is my own Irminsul in my backyard. The head is of Irmin (Uuoden or Odin) with one eye. Irminsul is an Old Saxon word meaning "Irmin's pillar" or "strong-pillar." Irmin or Uuoden or Odin, as we learn from a genealogy, was the father of Sassnoth or Sahsnoth, the national deity of the Saxons. Also, I am reconstructing this godpole again, as after four years exposed to the elements, it needed repair. This is a HUGE reason why I believe that the godpole of the Saxons was indoors. Not only would this match other finds, like that in Denmark's Tisso, but godpoles did not survive the elements for long in northern Germany, or Old Saxony. Please join us in the Facebook group: Aldsidu: Saxon Heathenry. To conclude this article, I give the "bogus" Frankish propaganda story of a miracle. While I do believe the Frankish sources are correct, that the Saxons lost a battle in 773 to retake the site of Thor's Oak of the Chatti, I do not believe the Christian God's angels intervened and gave the Franks a victory. Here is the Royal Frankish Annals story of this bogus miracle in 773, of how angels saved the church built by Saint Boniface on the site of Thor's Oak: In 773, it is recorded in the annals: “When the Saxons in their savagery began to burn the houses outside, they came upon a church at Fritzlar which Boniface of saintly memory, the most recent martyr, had consecrated and which he had said prophetically would never be burnt by fire. The Saxons began to attack this church with great determination, trying one way or another to burn it. While this was going on, there appeared to some Christians in the castle and to some Heathens in the army two young men on white horses who protected the church from fire. Because of them the Heathens could not set the church on fire or damage it, either inside or outside. Terror-stricken, by the intervention of divine might, they turned to flight, although nobody pursued them. Afterward, one of the Saxons was found dead beside the church. He was squatting on the ground and holding tinder and wood in his hands as if he had meant to blow on his fuel and set the church on fire.” (See The Royal Frankish Annals published by Ann Arbor Paperbacks, translated by Bernhard Walter Scholz, p.50)